Referendum campaigns reviewed

This is an article by Alec Vickerson.
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With just days left to go, we’re all being bombarded with last minute information on whether to vote yes of no to the Alternative Voting (AV) system. Both camps have run high profile campaigns to promote their view, and have employed various communications tactics to get the message across.

Voting systems compared

We currently vote under First Past the Post. This involves the voter putting a cross next to one candidate. The candidate with most votes in the constituency wins. AV is different in that voters rate the candidates in order of preference, and a candidate needs 50% support to be successful. If this isn’t the case on the first count, the last placed candidate drops out and their voters’ second preferences come into play. This process continues until one candidate has majority support.

The Yes campaign

The key messages from the pro-AV campaign are that MPs will have to work harder to gain and keep our support and that we will have more say in who our MP is. However, these messages don’t relate to relevant events as mush as the anti-AV campaign does and this is reflected in such things as the posters. Whilst the No to AV posters include more information and a clearly defined message, the Yes to AV posters just include short statements.

Public figures supporting the Yes campaign include Colin Firth, Steve Coogan and Joanna Lumley.

The No campaign

Anti-AV campaign has highlighted the added complexity of the AV system and use this as one of their key messages. They also claim that the Alternative Voting system is unfair, costly, as it would cost £250 million to bring in, and would give politicians too much power.

The matter of the cost is relevant at a time where people are losing their jobs due to cuts. The Anti-AV campaign has included the message – “he needs bulletproof vests not an alternative voting system,” referring to our troops in combat around the world. Voters are being led to question why we would want to spend millions on a new voting system when the money could be better spent elsewhere.

The No to AV campaign has also employed the help of public figures such as Margaret Beckett, Tony Hadley and Peter Stringfellow amongst others.  The use of public figures has raised the profile of the campaigns and led to further coverage in national newspapers.

Use of social media

We have been able to follow these campaign messages through social networks. Both have used Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube and blogs. However, similar tactics haven’t led to similar popularity in opinion polls.

The Anti-AV campaign is pushing ahead according to the latest poll conducted by YouGov, showing a 55% majority for No. Could it be that it’s easier to mount a negative campaign than a positive one?


  1. Very interesting article, particularly with the strong link to PR. Check out these posts on the AV.

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